Jock dopers: How does the 'in' group in high school become the 'in' group in the first place?

Ok, I don’t get it: Everyone talks about the ‘in’ group, especially i recall my high school days.

Is there such a group? In my days it seemed to be the cheerleaders and football players. Is there such an ‘in’ group? How did they become the highest status? Who decided it? Us star trek-uniform-wearing eggheads like me didn’t like it, but seemed not to object.

Are the in-group people naturally higher status (jocks with muscles, girls with cheerleader bodies), or is it artificial?

Not sure if there’s a real answer beyond human nature tends to accept things as a given once they’re presented. It’s the same situation as “How does that one guy get to be the leader of the others? They outnumber him, yet they all yield to him.” or “Why does that town put up with those guys bullying them around? The townsfolk outnumber them 5 to 1.”

From my experience at school it is just those who are more outgoing and find it easiest to make friends. These people will naturally befriend each other if given the opportunity and they sort of become the social nucleus for the kids of their age. Kids who are a bit awkward or who don’t share interests with the majority will become the outsiders. In a big enough group of kids there will be enough outsiders to form their own smaller groups.

I grew up in New Zealand and the social groups in high school didn’t seem to be affected by team sports, in fact one of the largest “in” groups I remember was made up of smart nerdy kids rather than sporty ones.

Just watch Glee, for crying out loud.

Hyperconfidence. Self-assuredness and the inability to overthink a situation is an absolute boon with sports, public performance and winning arguments with others who may doubt themselves or think too deeply to get off a timely and winning response. Later on in life this quality is very useful in the business arena and politics.

You don’t have to look hard to find highly successful people who simply don’t let the occasional failure or error get them down. Life’s easier if you just don’t think about it too much.

So the secret of success is ignorance and arrogance?

Pretty much, yep. And being physically attractive helps.

Thus explaining cheerleaders.

Here in Australia it was quite the opposite. Me and my mates were the “jocks” and the “in” group but our group included the smartest guys at our school and we didn’t lord it over anyone.

I’m sorry - what? You’re saying confident people who don’t let bumps get them down are that way because they are incapable of comprehensively assessing the situation?

Well…yeah. Got any examples of cerebral, modest and wildly successful people? That aren’t offset by a dozen charismatic knuckle-draggers? Just my POV.

The people in the “in” group are in that group because they know they’re cool. Most kids that age are pretty insecure and want desperately to conform, so they agree that the cool kids are cool, reinforcing the idea of the “in” group. I wish I’d known that in high school and had had the confidence not to care what people thought of me.

I don’t know about that. My Hopeless Crush[sup]TM[/sup] in high school was a cheerleader and also a straight-A student. Took physics with her in grade 12… :: sigh :: wave superposition was never the same…

As an aside, TV lies about cheerleaders. One doesn’t become a cheerleader by physical appearance, one becomes a cheerleader by being really damn strong. To the extent that the cheerleaders look any better than average, it’s mostly due to them being in excellent health.

One thing that helps a lot of jocks is that they start as part of a group that can pass on status.

I moved to a new school for high school. I decided to play football (for some foolish reason given that at the time I had no size or muscles). This required me to start practice over a month before school started.

Then, that lovel first day of school as a new, scrawny kid. Two guys walk up to mess with me, and then find themselves facing 3 others with the statement of “leave Algher alone, he’s cool. He’s on the team.” With that I went from the bottom of the pile to the middle in one second. As a Freshman, I had Seniors who knew me and would say hello - thus elevating my status. Later, when I was an upperclassman, I unwittingly would do the same for other new Frosh.

Good sports teams back each other, and there is power in numbers in high school. With those numbers, you get a little more self- confidence and you don’t feel like you are a complete outsider.

Second anecdote. My son is in high school. He was at lunch when one of the bullies started making fun of a fat kid at his table (fat is relevant, as that was the focus of the verbal bullying). However, that fat kid is also on my son’s lacrosse team. My son just rounded on the bully and started verbally eviscerating him in return, defending the fat kid. Bully then tries to focus on my son instead, dropping a joke about how he should shut up as just a bench warmer, but talking about his time on the soccer team instead. With that, members of his soccer team start laughing - since my son was a starter and never substituted (stealth parent bragging!).

So one bully finds himself getting taken down (someday he will start pit threads that go awry). He gets taken down because he messes with members of sports teams who back each other up. At the same team, each member of the team gets a little stronger and little higher in the pecking order.

Yeah, our “in” group were only separated from the “nerd” group by way of being popular. They were otherwise nerds in every sense.

My experience is significantly biased (coming from a merit-based high school), but our “in” group was the same - they were the people who had some of the highest grades and just excelled in virtually everything they tried, and not because they were naturally gifted - many of them put hours into their studies and practice.

I think that’s one of the reasons why they were all so confident. They knew they’d worked their butts off, got the results to match and therefore had no reason to think they were anything other than awesome. The difference between them and the nerds was that they weren’t afraid to toot their own horns. Also, not all the nerds necessarily succeeded when they tried, and I’m sure kids from the “in” crowd failed occasionally. They just never seemed to let that stop them, and they made it all look so effortless.

The ‘in’ group in my high school* was also mostly the jock-braniacs. The rest were the drama/band-jocks, or drama/band-braniacs. They were all people who had lots of interests.

I wasn’t really part of the ‘in’ group, but knew most of 'em by being a braniac, jock, and friends with the drama/band folks. So I wasn’t in the ‘out’ groups.

The ‘out’ groups were all the people who stuck to their clique or social comfort zone. Whether they were smart, or not. This nerd/jock divide has never held up to scrutiny in my experience.

  • not in Australia.

Virtually all wildly successful people I know are very cerebral, although many don’t present themselves as outwardly “bookish”. I can honestly say that modest wildly successful people I know seem to be represented proportionally with respect to amount of modest people in the general population. On the other hand, modest wildly successful people are always overshadowed by flamboyant and boastful wildly successful people because they are modest.